When we talk about “heavy” music what do we mean? Does “heavy” hold some sort of metaphysical weight that exists outside of the composition like genre, band members, volume, etc.? In considering what most people associate with heavy— metal, black clothes, long hair, ear-destroying walls of amps—dark imagery plays an integral role. Most people wouldn’t consider classical music heavy in that definition, right? If we strip “heavy” of its connotative trappings and look at a piece in terms of mood and compositional arrangement, then we get a very different definition. A track is heavy because it traps you under the weight of what you feel, the emotion that it conveys. Lou Reed? Heavy. Ben Frost? Brutal. Nick Cave? Whoa. Evangelista? The most freakin’ metal album I have heard all year.
Prince of Truth is a revelation. Evangelista lives comfortably inside the dark impasses that fellow Constellations labelmates only flirted with in their most tortured post-rock soundscapes. Carla Bozulich’s songs are compositional nightmarescapes of haunted Americana, clanging noise rock and elegant chamber music. The songs themselves are compositionally impossible, assembling a broad swath of musicians from Montreal mainstays to Xiu Xiu’s / Congs for Brums percussion master Chess Smith to new Wilco member Nels Cline (!); it takes a group of musicians this talented to totally dismantle song compositions with such grace and force. It is Bozulich’s post-gothic purr-to-howl that ties all the disparate elements into a dark passage of a jarring, ferocious cacophony.
“The Slayer” opens with some Metal Machine Music swirls of distortion drenched guitars and a churning sea of discordant melodies until Bozulich’s gothic, otherworldly voice announces, “This is the speed of light…The angels walk below / slicing metal by remote control”. Yes! Let’s see Danzig write something that unabashedly terrifying or hear him deliver it with such creepy detachment. Amazingly, “The Slayer” is pulled together with a melodic chorus. This is one of my favorite moments on the album, partly because, oddly enough, Bozulich sounds a lot like Ian MacKaye of Fugazi. It is uncanny; she even nails the breathless pant of MacKaye at his most accusatory. This is, of course, Fugazi on a dangerously high level of codeine.
“I Lay There in Front of Me Covered In Ice” is a sprawling Americana ballad in the key of Nick Cave. It is a coy little piece that never fully reveals its teeth until long after the fact. “Iris Didn’t Spell” is the most compositionally complex, featuring a minute and a half organ, strings, and drum segue that turns any sort of traditional composition on its ear. “Darkness falls / the stars explode /but they don’t die, they just can’t be together” is stated with such a resigned sense of fatalism you can feel the weight of the words even if you can’t decipher their meaning. That goes for most of Bozulich’s songwriting— each line is conveyed with such sincerity and dread that a interpretation isn’t needed. The lyrics push along the mournful dirge, and not vice-versa.
This brings me to the centerpiece of the album, “You Are Jaguar,” the most accessible and darkest track, and, truthfully, one of 2009’s best slices of music. A pop-apocalyptic burner, in which Bozulich’s voice is forced to its most heroic, standing on top of the stage lights screaming “You are a Jaguar! / In Catacombs / In racecars! / Of my love in feathers!” Let the wild rumpus of guitar freak-outs start! This is jaw dropping stuff here.
Prince of Truth can and should be compared favorably to Ben Frost’s critically lauded By The Throat as a vocal/spoken word addendum. They share a similar compositional weight in both theme and substance: heavier than Dokken, heavier than Dio, heavier than Priest, man.